ELK, Wash. — A man is recovering in the hospital after he was severely injured while helping his neighbors during the Oregon Road Fire.
Justin Knutsen was at his home when the Oregon Road fire broke out. Instead of leaving with his family, he stayed behind to help his neighbors. Once he knew all his neighbors were safe, he noticed the fire was moving too fast.
“I wasn't prepared for that," Knutsen said. "The fire was completely engulfing the trees.”
The heat caused Knutsen's truck to break down while he tried to drive to safety. He had no choice but to run through the flames.
“I pulled up my shirt above my face because if I knew if I breathed in any of this, I would have lung damage," Knutsen said.
Through the smoke, Knutsen saw faint headlights. A woman leaving the area saw him and picked him up.
"If it weren’t for her, I’m pretty sure another five seconds and I would’ve been gone," Knutsen said.
She dropped him off at an ambulance. That’s when a crowd of people started pouring water on him.
“We all just started pouring water on him, one helper, Cassandra Anderson, said. "Water bottles, we had a water jug. We just doused him as much as we could."
Anderson says Knutsen is a hero.
“I think that he definitely could have been the only notification that they got there was the fire coming," Anderson said. "So, I'm sure that he's helped a lot of people.”
When Knutsen got to the hospital, the first thing he did was call his wife. Doctors diagnosed him with second-degree burns on 30% of his body.
“I regret nothing. I'm happy to be here. I'm happy that I did what I did regardless of the outcome of it,” Knutsen said.
He was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he recently got out of the ICU.
“I'm excited to be here,” Knutsen said. “Honestly, I'm excited for the second chance. I'm excited to go home and see my kids finally.”
Knutsen is expected to make a full recovery.
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